September 14, 2018 - Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA) - Cauleen Smith: Give It or Leave It
September 14, 2018

Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA)

[1] Cauleen Smith, Sojourner (production still), 2018. Color and sound (in progress). [2] Pilgrim (video still), 2017. Color and sound, 7:41 minutes. [3] Space Station Monk-Ranger, installation view, Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago, 2013. Wallpaper, disco balls, turntable, motor, fur, shag carpet, two projectors, and DVD. Photo: Cecil McDonald. [4] Black And Blue Over You (After Bas jan Ader For Ishan) (still), 2010. Film, HD digital video, 9:30 minutes. All works courtesy of the artist, Corbett vs. Dempsey, Chicago, and Kate Werble Gallery, New York.

Cauleen Smith
Give It or Leave It
September 14–December 23, 2018

Opening celebration: September 14, 6:30–9pm

Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA)
118 S. 36th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
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Alice Coltrane Turiyasangitananda: The Ashram Experience
October 7
Presented by Ars Nova Workshop as part of The October Revolution of Jazz & Contemporary Music 
FringeArts, 140 N. Columbus Blvd., Philadelphia 

An intimate performance with singer and actress Helga Davis
November 10 

Curator-Led Tour with Anthony Elms
November 28, 6–7pm 

Through films, objects, and installation, Give It or Leave It offers an emotional axis by which to navigate four distinct universes: Alice Coltrane and her ashram, a 1966 photo shoot by Bill Ray at Simon Rodia’s Watts Towers, Noah Purifoy and his desert assemblages, and black spiritualist Rebecca Cox Jackson and her Shaker community. These locations, while not technically utopian societies, embody sites of historical speculation and radical generosity between artist and community. In reimagining a future through this mix, Smith casts a world that is black, feminist, spiritual, and unabashedly alive.

The attempts referenced by Smith do not turn their backs on the here and now. Each effort, in its own way, embedded gestures of self-realization in current events and social publics. Building upon this, each exploration served as antidote to a pervasive hopelessness perceived in American society. This defiantly aspirational energy drives the exhibition. As an idiom, “give it or leave it,” mutates the coercive attitude behind, "take it or leave it.” Smith’s recast proposes a liberating rule for a better world—creating, offering, and gifting, regardless of a gesture’s recognition, acceptance, or rejection. In this refusal to summon a reaction, one surrenders to possibilities of generosity, hospitality, and a collective destiny. Give It or Leave It calls to the self, refusing to issue an ultimatum that demands another’s response.

Organized by Anthony Elms, Daniel and Brett Sundheim Chief Curator. A fully illustrated catalogue is planned for 2019 release, featuring essays by the curator and art historian Rhea Anastas, organizer of Warplands, a related exhibition by Smith at the University of California, Irvine's CAC Gallery (2017), alongside a conversation between Smith and artist Rodney McMillian.

Support for Cauleen Smith: Give It or Leave It has been provided by the Ellsworth Kelly Award. Additional support has been provided by B. Z. & Michael Schwartz, Meredith & Bryan Verona, and Susan Weiler.

Cauleen Smith (b. Riverside, California, 1967; lives and works Los Angeles) is an interdisciplinary artist, whose work reflects upon the everyday possibilities of the imagination. Operating in multiple materials and arenas, Smith roots her work firmly within the discourse of mid-twentieth-century experimental film. Drawing from structuralism, Third World Cinema, and science fiction, she makes things that deploy the tactics of these disciplines, while offering a phenomenological experience for spectators and participants. Her films, objects, and installations have been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including those at the Studio Museum in Harlem; the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston; the Yerba Buena Center for Art, San Francisco; the 2017 Whitney BiennialProspect.4, New Orleans; the New Museum, New York; D21, Leipzig; and Decad, Berlin. Smith has had solo shows of films and installations at The Kitchen, New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago; the Art Institute of Chicago; and Threewalls, Chicago. Smith is the recipient of several grants and awards, including the Rockefeller Media Arts Award, a Creative Capital Moving Image Grant, the Chicago 3Arts Grant, the Foundation for Contemporary Arts’ Ellsworth Kelly Award, Expo Chicago’s Artadia Award, and a Rauschenberg Residency. Smith was born in Riverside, California, and grew up in Sacramento. She earned her BA in creative arts from San Francisco State University and her MFA from the University of California, Los Angeles’s School of Theater, Film, and Television. Smith teaches in the School of Art at CalArts.

Institute of Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania (ICA)
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Give It or Leave It
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